Writing and Research in the Department of Literature
The department believes strongly that writing is an essential part of the learning process in courses in literature, and that research, broadly defined, is an essential part of any education. Research lies at the heart of your studies in this department, with close study and reading providing the foundation for research. By cultivating these skills, students learn the most that can be known about a work, an author, or a period and ultimately put these skills into practice in writing the research paper.
Writing about what you have learned enables you to develop knowledge and gain understanding. Further, the research paper provides a way of sharing knowledge with a community of scholars, both at the UNC Asheville and around the globe. By making your work public, you help others learn and grow.
By researching and writing in all of your courses, you will acquire the habit of reading both primary and secondary materials and will gain greater understanding.
You will be expected to write well and revise your work. By thinking, speaking, composing, revising, and editing, you will cultivate a strong writing style, expand your horizons, develop important cognitive skills, gain aesthetic appreciation, and learn how to produce qualitative work.
A Few Specific Suggestions
- Every Literature major should own a copy of "A Glossary of Literary Terms," by M.H. Abrams, the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers," and perhaps a brief guide such and Strunk and White's "Elements of Style" or William Zinsser's "On Writing Well."
- For questions of formatting papers and of simple matters of documentation, consult a source such as the MLA Handbook or http://www.dianahacker.com/pdf/Hacker-MLAupdates.pdf
- The department does not assume all students already know how to do research. Information Literacy Intensive classes devote time to research methods. Most literature courses will provide some of the instruction you need in class, but you should feel free to seek advice and suggestions from your instructor.
Dr. Gillum's Do's and Don'ts for Scholarly Writing
SCHOLARLY WRITING is a genre aimed at a particular audience and having certain conventions -- meaning, that's just the way it's done. Academic term papers and articles intended for scholarly publication follow these conventions. There are, of course, many other kinds of writing to which these conventions do not apply. For example, what you are reading is not scholarly writing and does not follow the rules that it states. And some college writing assignments will explicitly ask for a more personal and informal approach. However, all your teachers will be happy if you follow these conventions in writing regular term papers. They are not "what I want," rather they represent standard good practice.
Grading Standards in the Department of Literature and Language
In order to avoid confusion about departmental standards and expectations, one set of guidelines will apply to all assigned paper and essay exams. Individual instructors have the authority to emphasize one element or standard more than another and may provide you with either an oral or written extension of these guidelines.
To view the Departmental Grading Standards, Download PDF
How To Get Good Grades In Literature (and what to do if you don't)
Becoming involved in a poem, novel, or play - experiencing it, reading and re-reading it - is the only real means of appreciating it. And it is unlikely that anyone who has not gone through such a process can discuss literature with any vital sense of understanding. That means that literature must be read differently from the way you read People Magazine. A new skill is involved: one that has to be learned.
Reading literature means reading slowly. It means re-reading. Words are subtle. They have many meanings. A good grade is achieved by becoming involved in the subject. And you get involved only by reading thoughtfully, only by taking notes on what you are reading, only by asking questions of yourself ("What is the author trying to show me here?" "Why is he or she saying it in this fashion?" "Is he or she implying more than one meaning?" "What kind of values is the author showing me?").
Students who earn A's go even further. They do extra reading in the library - in critical journals, in biographies on authors. They assume that literature, like a good problem in geometry, requires something more than merely reading the assignment.
If you can truly say that you have put out such effort, if you have truly studied, written out notes, formulated questions, read extra material - if you can say all that and you still aren't receiving A's or B's, then see your instructor for personal guidance.
But don't go to the instructor to complain that you always received A's in high school or from other teachers. The standards of quality in UNC Asheville’s Department of Literature and Language are high. We expect more from you. And when you do perform at the highest level, the reward will be honestly and justly earned.
If you feel, however, that a grade has been unfairly given, the following procedure will apply:
- As a matter of courtesy you must discuss the situation first with your instructor. If you go to the Department Chair or to the Vice Chancellor you will only be sent back to the instructor. Ninety percent of all misunderstandings can be solved, and should be solved, at this level.
- If you cannot come to an agreement with the instructor, inform him or her that you would like to discuss it further with the Department Chair. Do not go to the Chair without informing the instructor. It is only a common courtesy to be forthright about your problem. The Department Chair will attempt to negotiate a solution. He or she will not over-ride the instructor's prerogative to assign a grade.
- Contact the "Faculty Conciliator." Your Student Handbook, published by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, will give you complete information.